Quality of clinical trials for selected priority mental and neurological disorders in sub-Saharan Africa: A systematic review

Anwar Mulugeta, Girmay Medhin, Getnet Yimer, Rahimush Jemal, Abebaw Fekadu

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: There is a developing consensus on the effectiveness of various interventions for mental disorders in low- and middle-income countries, and it has been proposed that the main task is to scale up these interventions. In this context, we aimed to review the quality and extent of intervention trials for selected priority mental and neurological disorders in sub-Saharan Africa. Methods: Medline and African Journals Online databases were used for searching relevant articles. Both randomized and nonrandomized clinical trials for the treatment of schizophrenia, depression, maternal depression, bipolar disorder, and epilepsy/seizure disorders that involve pharmacotherapy, psychotherapy, and physical therapy were included. An extensive list of search terms that identified locations, disorders, interventions, and study types were employed. The qualities of the trials were appraised using the single-component quality assessment of the consolidated standards of reporting trials (CONSORT) statement and the Jadad scale. Results: From 1,136 studies identified, only 34 trials that fulfilled inclusion criteria were used for quality analysis. Most studies were clinical trials of treatments for epilepsy and were conducted after 2006. In terms of region, the majority of studies were conducted in South Africa (22 of the 34 studies). Approximately half of the trials (53%) were conducted in single center and the majority of the trials (71%) were pharmacotherapeutics-based intervention. In terms of methodological quality in relation to the Jadad scale, 82% fulfilled the criteria for good methodological quality with a score of 3-5. However, the methodological quality according to the CONSORT criteria was more mixed. Conclusion: The overall quality of clinical trials conducted in sub-Saharan Africa is encouraging despite the limited number of studies. However, important quality limitations remain and have not improved over time. Hence, establishing clinical trial centers in these countries may be one approach to improving quality and quantity of trials.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-52
Number of pages10
JournalOpen Access Journal of Clinical Trials
Publication statusPublished or Issued - 7 Dec 2016
Externally publishedYes


  • Africa
  • Depression
  • Drug therapy
  • Epilepsy
  • Psychotherapy
  • Randomized controlled trial
  • Schizophrenia

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology, Toxicology and Pharmaceutics (miscellaneous)
  • Pharmacology (medical)

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